BBC’s Knell skirts the issue of PA and Fatah incitement to violence

How did Yolande Knell respond to a direct question on PA and Fatah incitement?

An edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘OS’ (formerly ‘Outside Source’) that was broadcast on December 15th led with an item (from 00:68 here) described by presenter Ben James as being about “the latest protests and clashes over Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital”.

During his subsequent conversation with the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell, James asked (at 02:53) an interesting question:

James: “And these protests; are they being organised by political parties? Are they spontaneous to an extent? What’s behind them?”

Anyone following the Palestinian media will be aware of numerous examples of incitement to rioting and violence that have appeared in both traditional and new media over the past couple of weeks. For example, PMW reports that:

“In anticipation of Trump’s statement, the Secretary of Fatah in Jerusalem Shadi Mattour explained that Fatah had already made plans for “escalating struggle activities” if US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, stating that there’s “nothing left but to return to confrontation”: 

Secretary of Fatah in Jerusalem Shadi Mattour: “The Fatah Movement has always led the defenders of our Palestinian people and will not hesitate when it sees the danger surrounding our Palestinian capital Jerusalem. Yesterday we were called to a meeting of branch secretaries in the presence of [Fatah] Commissioner Jamal Muhaisen, and prepared plans for escalating struggle activities on the ground if the US makes such a decision that will blow up the peace process… When the patron of peace [the US] comes and kills the peace process and kills our dream to establish our Palestinian state whose capital is Jerusalem, we in Fatah have nothing left but to return to confrontation with this occupation.” [Official PA TV, Palestine This Morning, Dec. 5, 2017]”

A PA official conveyed a similar message – also on official PA TV:

“In his Friday sermon at the PA headquarters, Abbas’ advisor on religious affairs Mahmoud Al-Habbash incited Palestinians to religious war. Condemning US President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as “a crime against humanity” and “a sin,” Al-Habbash encouraged Muslims and Christians worldwide to “act.” He asked rhetorically: “How do the Muslims of the world allow this sin?” And answered later in the speech that “the Muslims will act.” “

On social media the PA president’s Fatah party has put out repeated calls for an intifada and “popular rage”.

‘”The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades at the Al-Fawwar refugee camp south of Hebron: ‘It is necessary to continue the intifada and escalate it, and to see days of popular rage in the coming days.'” [Facebook page of the Fatah Movement – Bethlehem Branch, Dec. 8, 2017]’

Obviously then, one would have expected Yolande Knell to inform BBC World Service audiences of such incitement from official PA sources as well as the dominant political party in both the Palestinian Authority and the PLO in her response to James’ question.

This, however, was her answer:

Knell: “I mean in most areas you have…err…young protesters who will, when there is…err…something like…err…an issue around Jerusalem, they will turn out to protest. Ahm…the Islamist group Hamas has called for an intifada – a Palestinian uprising – but I have to say so far that this has not been anything like on that level…”

This is by no means the first time that we have seen Yolande Knell – and other BBC journalists – downplaying, erasing, distorting and ignoring the issue of incitement to violence from official PA and Fatah sources. 

How that practice can be said to contribute to meeting the BBC’s public purpose of providing “impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them” is of course a mystery. 


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